Experimenting At Work


A co-worker recently came back from training, and shared some of the techniques that were presented.

One that sounded interesting was, in planning, try swapping roles to elicit different ideas. For example, have a developer act as product owner, and speak to priorities, and have a product owner speak to effort and commitment. Role playing is more common when identifying personas to help define user stories, but I hadn’t heard of anyone doing this within a scrum team - we typically go into a planning session as our assigned roles. This is also similar to the ideas presented in Edward de Bono in Six Thinking Hats, where he suggests you try to place yourself in a specific mode of thinking (eg: emotional, creative) to approach problems from a different perspective.

And this idea of role playing got me thinking of a scenario playing technique that I’d heard about on the Freakonomics podcast, where a psychologist proposes conducting a “pre-mortem” before starting a project. Post-mortems are pretty common - particularly when something “bad” happened (which is interesting on its own - as if there were only lessons to be learned when something bad happens). In a pre-mortem, before the project starts, the team meets, and pretends that the effort has been a failure, and spends 5 minutes writing down all the reasons they can imagine why the project failed. The idea is there is now “prospective hindsight”, to adjust for over-confidence at the beginning of a project, and provide input into the planning process. It’s a different way of collecting input for a risk register.

Along with other ideas circulated on LinkedIn news feeds, and blogs, does anyone ever try to shake things up and try different techniques at work? Ever schedule an outdoor walking meeting? Should we wait for the “best of” processes to get collected and codified, and then formally adopt them (PMP, SCRUM, etc…)? Have you introduced anything to your teams after reading about it or talking with peers? Did it stick?